Eric McHenry was paid to review Dave Smith’s decade’s worth of poems but he must have wanted badly to write a homage to Willam Matthews (in today’s NYTimes Book Review). In a seven paragraph review of Smith’s Little Boats, Unsalvaged: Poems, 1992-2004, Matthews and his poetry are discussed (occassionally with Smith’s poetry) in four. Hell, Robert Frost gets his own full paragraph. Even Stanley Plumley gets a few sentences. That doesn’t leave much for Smith who suffers in comparison to both Frost and Matthews. Smith doesn’t even get the opening and closing paragraphs — those are for Matthews. The second paragraph is about Smith writing about Matthews. The penultimate, Frost used to find fault in the style of the unnamed Smith.
Now I too miss Bill Matthews and with others I regret his too early death in 1997. But does he need to rise from the grave to show us what Smith lacks? And doesn’t Smith deserve more that one paragraph dedicated to him in a review like this?
Reading a review that is too much about Matthews as a basketball opponent and not enough about Smith as a poet — I call foul.